Following a four-hit, two-homer game last night against the Yankees, Maikel Franco is now hitting .312/.353/.574 with nine homers in just 36 games. Franco’s scorching start has him second among NL rookies in batting average, seventh in OBP, third in slugging, and third in OPS. Among the lone bright spots on a team in win-loss turmoil, Franco is quickly catching up to his rookie peers in counting stats, as well: despite having nearly half the plate appearances of stand-out NL rookies Joc Pederson, Jace Peterson, and Kris Bryant, Franco ranks fourth in homers, just one behind Bryant and LA’s Alex Guerrero for second place, sixth in runs’ scored, and eighth in RBI.
Franco’s slash lines and counting stats are at a rate right now that compare favorably to those he put up in Reading in 2013 (.339/.363/.563) and in Lehigh Valley in 2015 (.355/.384/.539) while his strike out and walk rates are also nearly identical to his stops in AA and AAA (5.3% BB and 14.7% K). While some were worried that Franco’s down 2014 with the IronPigs would be indicative of a slowdown as Franco progressed, Franco has burst through the gates in his first full-time stint in the Majors, posting numbers in line with each professional season previous with 2014 being the exception that proves the rule.
If Franco is able to continue his early successes, he will be able to wedge himself into the NL Rookie of the Year race. But is it be too late? Pederson of the Dodgers has already blasted 19 homers and has a near .400 (.393) on-base percentage. And behind Pederson, Chicago’s Bryant has swatted 10 big flies and also has a near .400 (.384) on-base percentage. And behind them, there is a gaggle of players who would be front-runners in most NL Rookie of the Year races of years past, such as Atlanta’s Peterson (.284/.363/.389, 2 HR, 8 SB), San Fran’s Matt Duffy (.290/.340/.435, 6 HR, 2 SB), and St. Louis’ Randal Grichuk (.285/.305/.577, 6 HR, 2 SB).
Franco, even at a slight fraction of his current pace, should be to blow by Peterson, Duffy, and Grichuk in counting stats but may find some competition in Yasmany Tomas. And, while it once seemed crazy, Bryant might be able to be catchable in some if not most counting stats, as well. But, it will take an out-of-this-world remainder of the season to catch Pederson, who is on pace for an eight-plus win season per FanGraphs which not only would make Pederson the NL Rookie of the Year but a very likely NL MVP candidate, as well. But as with anything involving players that are 22 and 23 years old, respectively, nothing is certain for Franco or Pederson.
Can Franco put himself firmly in the race for Rookie of the Year? Yes. Will he put his name alongside Jack Sanford, Dick Allen, Scott Rolen, and Ryan Howard as the only Phillies to win Rookie of the Year? Probably not. Pederson is having a pretty historic rookie season and it would take an even more historic season from Franco to catch him. I chose to never say never but Franco picked himself a year to burn his rookie eligibility that has one of the strongest rookie classes in quite some time.